People with advanced cancer may experience pain. It can impact you both physically and emotionally, affecting healing and contributing to fatigue, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. Depending on your cancer and the type of treatments you receive, you may experience pain that is acute (short‑term), chronic (long‑term), or breakthrough (pain that occurs despite a regular dose of pain medicine).
Tips for managing it
The most important thing to know about cancer pain is that you don’t have to just live with it. You healthcare team has many ways to help you manage pain, and there are a few things you can do to help them:
Nobody is expecting you to “just deal with it” and nobody will think you’re weak for admitting you’re in pain. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to treat your pain. The more your healthcare team knows, the better equipped they are to help you get your pain under control.
Track your pain
Keep track of when pain happens, what triggered it, where it is, how strong it is (try a simple scale from 1 to 10), and what you did to get your pain under control. This type of information can be very helpful to your healthcare team as they try to get your pain under control.
Stick with it
It may take hours or days to get your pain under control. In the meantime, many strong pain medications can have side effects like confusion, lethargy, and sleepiness. Do not let these side effects stop you from sticking to your pain medication regimen! After the first few doses, these side effects usually go away and you’ll feel more like yourself again.
Working with your healthcare team
You and your healthcare team can put together a pain management plan. This plan may include:
- Over the counter medication
- Prescription medication
- Treatments that remove the source of the pain e.g. radiation therapy
About 50–80% of men on hormonal therapies for prostate cancer experience some sort of hot flashes. They usually start as a sudden feeling of warmth in the face and chest that then spreads to the rest of the body in waves and can last anywhere from 2 to 30 minutes. You may also experience sweating, reddening of the skin, a racing heart, or feelings of anxiousness. The exact cause of hot flashes is unknown, but may be related to how hormones interact with a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, which control body temperature.
Tips for managing them
Hot flashes usually get better as your body gets used to treatment or if medication is stopped, but there are a number of things you can do on a daily basis to help manage them:
- Dress in layers so that you can remove them when you get hot, and wear looser clothing in lighter fabrics (e.g. clothes made with cotton).
- Stay in air-conditioned or cool areas with lots of air circulation (e.g. next to a fan or open window).
- Avoid hot drinks, caffeine, spicy food, tobacco, and alcohol. Do not take any medicinal plants without first consulting your doctor.
- Practice taking slow, deep breaths when you feel a hot flash coming on, or try relaxing activities like yoga or meditation.
If your hot flashes become unbearable, your doctor may suggest one of the following treatments:
- Antidepressants such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and sertraline (Zoloft)
- Non-hormonal treatments, such as gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Progesterone, such as megesterol acetate (Megace, Ovaban, Pallace)
Taking care of your mental, emotional, and physical health will help you better face the changes that will come from advanced cancer and its treatment. The role you play in taking care of yourself is just as important as any medication or treatment.